Sephardic Mountain Dwellers and Baby Goat Devils: Compensation and Adaption of Cultural Allusion in Mexican Storytelling

In the art of transforming one language into another, a misguided belief persists that translation is mechanical and that perfect equivalence exists between any and all of them.  crucial is not how it works, much to the chagrin of translation buyers and translators alike. Taking their understanding of each culture, including political implications and intent of the author, and applying it to the target culture in context, a translator, not a machine without the ability to understand the nuance of language and even emotions, is the key to providing a culturally accurate translation. In high-stakes situations, a miscommunication could have long-term and far-reaching political consequences such as the We will bury you! incident that occurred at the diplomatic reception in the Polish embassy in Moscow during the Khrushchev era in 1956 or the Death to America indoctrination that has been referenced ad nauseam since the beginning of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The remnants of these two mistranslations, perhaps purposefully uttered for political intrigue, are still very much a part of the political-propaganda sphere today. Translators play an essential role in that their choices and situational understanding significantly influence perception cross-culturally.

Recently, I was contacted to translate an article from the column Veneno Puro by the Mexican journalist Rafael Loret de Mola, who had some very critical opinions of the intrigue that surrounds the politics, drug trade, and their effect on and interaction with the militia movements of Mexico, both old and new. His opinions are conveyed in a sardonic rant, which outlines the history of the cooperation that exists between wealthy elites and crime bosses of Mexico.

Americans and Mexicans have opinions of each other – this is merely the fact. As a translator though, it is vital to be completely unaffected by such tribally predicated notions, but also to be cognizant of them as they play a role in how the information would be best presented. It is my job to accurately translate Loret de Mola’s work into my native culture, without the interference of American stereotypes (at least, in as much as it is possible to do so). His words are his own, and as a translator, I am not allowed to act as a political pundit and spin the article toward any particular narrative that may be informed by personal politics. When it comes to the content of the author’s ideas and words it is not my job as the translator to have an opinion, it is my job to convey intent.

Words have the power to evoke emotion. From the propaganda of media to utterances of love and hate – the meanings of words in context shape society, and if they don’t shape it, they certainly help to create and give definition to a feeling, narrative, or concept that is of particular importance within its source paradigm. When translating these words into a target paradigm, there is not always an exact 1:1 equivalence. The most a translator can hope to achieve is being as close to the meaning as possible. If two people communicate with a third who acts as the medium for communication and understanding, much trust is put in this third party. This trust gives a translator a tremendous amount of power, and he/she must make difficult decisions at times.

The first concept that presented some difficulty in Loret de Mola’s article was ladino. This word does exist in English and is most often used to describe the Judeo-Spanish language spoken by Sephardic Jews. However, in the context of the article, it seemed natural that this was not the intention of the author.

No se olvide que “El Chapo” huyó, sobre el techo de un taxi, del aeropuerto de Guadalajara luego del magnicidio contra el Cardenal Posadas y fue a refugiarse al linde entre México y Guatemala, por las Cañadas, muy cerca de donde pululaban los indígenas con pasamontañas adiestrados por los “ladinos” aposentados de la sierra y con armas compradas, a precios de oferta, en el mercado negro promocionado por mandos medios del ejército. La detención del mismo, el 10 de junio de 1993, apenas dieciocho días después de los sucesos de Jalisco, sitúa la escena narrada entre estos dos hechos de manera muy significativa.1

In the original Spanish, the author describes the ladinos quite artistically; however, one must remember that the original article was written for a Mexican audience. Since he defines this group as “indigenous” and “from the mountains,” in the Spanish, one could not allow the translation to borrow the word directly for use in the English translation. In Central America, Ladino natural as a group of people who are of mixed ethnic heritage (Spanish and Indigenous) that live in areas of Mexico and Guatemala. In English, we have another word for this group of people – Mestizo. It might, in some cases, be okay to swap these two words and assume they have a close enough meaning in each respective culture. However, in the case of Loret de Mola, the term needs adaptation rather than simple translation.

In the article, ladinos is in quotes. This literary practice is often used to allude to a secondary, indirect or dubious connotation. The use of quotation marks to indicate a new word or a direct quote was not what the author intended. One comes to this conclusion through the understanding that ladino is a word used commonly in Mexican vernacular and throughout Central America. As a result of knowing this, a translator should question why the word is in quotes and whether there is something else the author is trying to convey. Loret de Mola’s writing style indicated that there was some underlying meaning to which he was leading the reader.

In the era of Mexican history (1993), which Loret de Mola references at the beginning of his article, society was tumultuous.  The economy was struggling, the drug trade was already well-established as a formidable force in politics, and there were militia movements within Mexico that were strongly anti-government and anti-PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had maintained power in Mexico between 1929 and 2000). Against this backdrop of knowledge, what Loret de Mola seems to be alluding to is made more transparent when he points out the location and actions of the group in his narrative “…adiestrados por los “ladinos” aposentados de la sierra y con armas compradas…” The ladinos were guerrillas and guerrilla trainers.

The question that came to me in this instant was whether it was pertinent to present the idea of ethnicity in the target language. Unlike Mexican society with its very strict class hierarchy, race is a more significant focus in United States society with class distinctions playing a comparatively minor role. Mestizo, while a concept in English, is not defined as a racial group in the United States, as such, and holds no positive or negative connotation in the collective mind of society. Additionally, one must consider whether the author is attempting to incite a racial or ethnic bias through this literary allusion. Having read the article, it seemed that the author was, in fact, criticizing the actions of the Mexican government and the effects thereof on the lower castes of his society that drove them to the militia movements. He was not criticizing the ethnic ladinos for being ethnic ladinos.

Would the final translation of Loret de Mola’s narrative benefit from this ethnic distinction in English? He was employing allusion after all, and the use of this literary mechanism worked well for Mexican Spanish. However, to maintain Loret de Mola’s distinction in translation would be of no benefit to his work nor his message because using “Mestizo” would be understood as a race-based distinction in the United States, whose relationship with race is very different than that of Mexico. Since race tensions are seemingly a never-ending and, at times, insurmountable aspect of American culture, I chose, as the translator, to render ladinos not with the near equivalent English “Mestizos,” but rather with the intended meaning of the author, “guerrillas.” Choosing to translate this as “Mestizo” would not have conveyed allusion of “guerrilla” given that in the United States Mestizos are not commonly associated with guerrilla groups, which, in the American understanding, are exclusively understood to be a Latin American phenomenon. Even the idea of a “militia member” differs enough from that of a “guerrilla” that it would not have been near enough in meaning to use the former in the context of the author’s commentary. As a result, the allusion could not be maintained and adapting for the target audience took precedence to preserve the integrity of the author’s message.

Don’t forget that El Chapo fled the Guadalajara airport on the roof of a taxi after the assassination of Cardinal Posadas and was to take refuge along the border of Mexico and Guatemala, by the Canyons, very near where the indigenous fighters were swarming in ski masks and being trained by the retired guerrillas in the mountains with arms bought at a bargain on the black market and advertised by mid-level commanders in the army.

Of course, there was another instance within this article of a word that is used in both Mexican and American culture. In both cultures the word junior has various uses depending on context; the meanings of which are not always equivalent. Juniors intocables literally translated could be rendered as “untouchable juniors:” however, as with ladino, there are different cultural assumptions and connotations between Mexico and the United States. In the context of the author’s commentary, junior refers to the children of the rich political elite and the crime bosses of Mexico. While the meaning of “child” or “a name used to refer to a descendant, son in singular, or children in plural” does exist in both paradigms, the idea that these decedents being only of the “elite” does not exist on a massive level in the United States.

The Mexican understanding of a junior (taking into account the additional information about the wealthy elite families of Mexico provided in the article itself) could be rendered in English as “rich kid,” and Loret de Mola’s intended meaning would be very clear. However, as the meaning is apparent and unhidden in Mexican Spanish, the translation of this word provided an opportunity to compensate for the loss of the allusion presented with the author’s previous use of ladinos. By translating juniors simply as “kids,” there is an underlying allusory meaning in American English.

One meaning of “kid” in English is “baby goat.” Goats are also the animal that is most often associated with the Abrahamic religions’ construct of the devil – a useful bit of information regarding American culture. Having chosen the adjective intocable, it is apparent that the author does not intend to be gentle in delivering his criticism relating to the children of rich elites, who he posits as nefarious characters. Using “kid” to mean “child” instead of the more specific intended meaning of “rich kid,” allows for compensation in that the literary allusion lost in the translation of ladinos can now be re-introduced in another part of the target text. Overall, this is beneficial to maintaining the integrity of the author’s style of writing by allowing the American English reader to consider the underlying meaning, of “kid” just as the Mexican Spanish reader had been able to do with ladinos.

One must always keep in mind that translation is an art, even if a text is non-artistic. Turnaround time is critical, accuracy is fundamental, and maintaining the intention of the source content in the target output cannot be discounted. In the case of Loret de Mola’s article, understanding cultural nuances in the Mexican context played the most crucial role in the translation of the article. As the translator, I was required to be very focused on the author’s style, intent, and overall goal. Simply, ignoring the strict cultural nuance would not have done the article justice. Adapting fully and thereby erasing the fact the article is about Mexico was not an option either.  The middle ground seems to be unattainable at times, but with the right effort, it is entirely feasible to remain faithful to the source text while translating style, nuance, and intent accurately not just from language to language, but from culture to culture.


The Unassuming Bei: Prepositional Versitility

Jesus Christ and all the saints, Mary, Jospeh, Allah, Buddah and Vishnu – is there a more versatile word in the German language? Well, probably, there is – but, we are going to look at this one and dig beneath the surface to begin a journey of understanding. Bei is perceived by most as a boring connecting word that requires little thought and the translation of which is lacking in complexity, which often leads to translators not giving it the amount of attention, or even respect, that is required to ensure it is rendered correctly.

Seemingly unassuming, the German preposition bei is utilized in many different ways. Understanding its meaning in context is incredibly important, but because of its similar sound and occasional equivalent meaning of the English “by,” it is often glossed over by translators and editors alike. However, this three-letter word has the potential to wreak havoc when not properly respected. For this reason, it is important to understand the meaning of this preposition in context before brushing it aside as a simple expression of time, location, or direction of a preceding phrase.

One of the criticism of language education, at least in the United States, is the idea that language is akin to simple math – addition and subtraction. Though this link is not untrue, language is not finite and despite the desire for all language to be proscriptive, this simply cannot be enforced. Interestingly enough, however, it is in the plethora of meanings that can be assigned to prepositions, conjunctions, and other linking grammatical units that are the nearest to proscriptive that one can get with any hope of such proscription of language being legitimized or enduring.  The initial focus of learning a language is on understanding tenses, irregular forms of verbs, and idiomatic expressions, and building vocabulary by memorizing one-to-one equivalencies between the languages at the word level. If one studies for long enough, though, it becomes quite clear that language is more like algebra with tons of variables and different ways to get to the same result. While this is important, one must also spend a fair amount of time accepting the fact: there is no one-to-one equivalency for any preposition between two languages.

When I studied German I distinctly remember that my professors in college expressly taught me that bei should be thought of as the second way that German speakers express the concept of “with.” That was it – no more explanation. Post-lecture my friends and I (the other language nerds) would giggle and really wonder why German speakers needed 2 words for “with.” Was one superior to the other? Well, not really, it just seems one is more common, mit, and the other less common, bei. has outlined the basic meanings of bei and gives very clear and concise examples of its everyday vernacular use – very often meaning “at,” “during,” or “near” and, yes, even “by.”


Ich bin bei Mutti.

I am at Mom’s.

Die Bettdecke ist günstiger bei Macy’s

The duvet costs less at Macy‘s


Bei Fastenzeit hat meine Familie kein Brot gegessen.

During Lent my family didn’t eat any bread.


Wartet der Reiseleiter bei dem rechtem Eingang des Bahnhofs oder dem linken?

Is the tour guide waiting near/by the right entrance to the train station?

With (#2)

Ein Anwalt für Mietrecht hilft bei Streitigkeiten zwischen Mieter und Vermieter?

A tenant law attorney helps with disputes between renters and landlords.

As a translator working in the medical field where I am encountered by a significant amount of patient medical reports, I found myself in a bind one day when the English I was translating just didn’t make any sense. Though I followed what I knew to be the translation for bei it just did not work, and I refused to send nonsense English to my client.

The most popular English equivalents of bei may not be particularly fluent sounding if used directly in a translation itself. This, of course, is simultaneously the bane of the translator’s existence as well as the coolest thing about being a translator (granted, it might only be me who finds this cool). So, in order to make a translation sound fluent in the target language, it is important to really hone in on the conceptual meaning.

inclusion within something abstract or non-finite

Weltweit tritt Asthma bei Kindern am häufigsten in Australien, Neuseeland und Großbritannien auf, am seltensten hingegen in Entwicklungsländern und osteuropäischen Regionen.1

Globally, asthma in children most often occurs in Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain, but is least common in developing countries and eastern European regions.

Lebensgewohnheiten und -umstände scheinen bei der Entwicklung der Krankheit eine große Rolle zu spielen.2

Lifestyle and environment seem to play an important role in the development of the disease.

Bei unter 75-jährigen Menschen spielen insbesondere die extrinsischen Risikofaktoren eine bedeutende Rolle.3

For people under 75 years of age external risk factors play a particularly significant role.

in conjunction with, but not the direct cause of

Ältere stürzen besonders häufig bei alltäglichen Aktivitäten, meist ohne das Bewusstsein zu verlieren und ohne Einwirkung äußerer Kräfte.4

It is particularly common for elderly people to experience a fall in conjunction with everyday activities, usually without the influence of external forces and without losing consciousness.

Elderly people fall rather commonly in the course of every day activity, most often there is neither an external force which causes this nor do they lose consciousness.

as a result of; being caused by;

Besonders gefährlich wird ein Raucherbein bei einem akuten Verschluss eines arteriellen Gefäßes.5

Caused by an acute occlusion of an arterial vessel, “smoker’s leg” is particularly dangerous.

Radikale Mastektomie bei Brustkrebs ist die vollständige Entfernung der es mit der Haut, des Pectoralis major Muskelfaser aus der Achsel-Lymphknoten und infraklavikuläre Regionen.6

Radical mastectomy due to breast cancer consists of the complete removal of the breast, its skin, and the pectoralis major muscle fibers from the lymph nodes of the axilla and the infraclavicular regions.

Hab mir auch erst Sorgen gemacht weil die Symptome wirklich ganz wie bei meinem Pneumothorax waren

I’m seriously worried because the symptoms were really completely like the ones I had because of a collapsed lung.

to indicate suitability

Beispielhaft erwähnt sei die Anwendung des prototypischen Cholinesterase-Inhibitors Physostigmin bei diesbezüglichen Komplikationen mit nichtnarkotisch wirkenden Akut-Sedativa.7

An example of this is the use of physostigmine, a prototypic cholinesterase inhibitor for complications associated with non-narcotic acute sedatives.

Too often, L2 speakers and translators have this problem – we strive subconsciously to make the teacher who taught us happy by using their one-to-one equivalency. This is also impacted by the x-phile (germanophile, sinophile, etc.) attitude of many language teachers and students. This attitude leads to us to try to maintain the source language character or culture in the target language. Despite this desire, the common outcome is a target language translation that at best sounds odd and may be frustrating to read, and, at the worst, like near-nonsense in the target language. Avoiding the nonsense is possible though, one must remember the skopos of their project, which in most cases is to render a target translation that is both linguistically and culturally fluent.

The purpose of translation is not to necessarily place the source or the target above one another, but to accurately render the concepts of each linguistic paradigm equivalently and fluently. Clients are most often less concerned with how much a person loves a certain culture and more concerned with realizing their business goals that underly their need for translation in the first place. Mistranslating a preposition like bei can actually create significant problems.  Thus, the common words require more attention to ensure they are accurately rendered and provide the correct information of relation that was intended by the original author.

Here is another way to think about it. German is full of what many non-German natives would describe as quite interesting and ostentatious compounded words that have lots of components to them on the surface, like Kaftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung (motor vehicle liability insurance). However, usually with such large words, there is no deeper meaning. They are the Kardashians of words, as it were. However, it is the humble and common words that have the most impact.  Think of words like bei like Meryl Streep – modest and versatile.

  2. Ibid.

6 Ideas to Foster Efficiency Within Process and Workplace

Do more in less time using fewer resources for less money.  Wait! Also, do it for a nominal, inconsequential fee.  This idea seems to be the one that pervades the whole system of business.  The fact is that quality can thrive in an efficient process, but forcing each product or need for service into a pre-determined template does not foster efficiency.

To be efficient is to use expertise, knowledge, and to be able to think and act critically and responsibly with regard to the vast array of circumstances that may arise during any type of product or service production process. Templatization is the idea that if a template is created for the business, this will create a format for each client to adhere to and make the job of production much easier. Though the idea is quite a noble one, the template that is not malleable and is not able to be changed is one that creates the problem of unhappy customers and unhappy services providers.

Efficiency lies in the correct utilization of technology, communication with internal teams and external clients where they are equal in stature, and a fluid process that allows for standardization and restructuring without a complete breakdown of the process and/or production.  As one can currently see in the workforce, Artificial Intelligence has not replaced the human worker, therefore human capital is still the fastest and most efficient way to understand the needs of a human client.  Thus, efficiency lies with human resources that correctly use technology to reduce time to market for products and for service life cycles while maintaining high-quality output.

The best and easiest way to maintain efficiency is to keep it simple and keep it flexible.

1) Human capital is most important, get the quick thinkers and the people with humble confidence.

Find the best people for the job. The idea that people are machines gets many a business into trouble. A team of people who are connected to each other, fairly compensated, and experts in their fields who are allowed to think critically and outside the box will allow for the highest amount of growth professionally and personally while most likely impacting the bottom line of all businesses in a positive way. Of course, it always works best if we can have the whole team on the same page. And, this is possible.

2) Rule the template, don’t let it rule you.

Templates are very useful tools, but they are to be handled and revised by a person.  Templates usually have a shelf-life and the key to their efficiency is how flexible and adaptable they are.  In fact, this is the key to most things – if it can adapt it can survive and be useful.

3) Be flexible and not dogmatic.

With the exception of breaking the law or causing undue difficulty to another team on a project, it is important to be flexible.  Dogmatic requirements that are there simply for the sake of being there are not the most efficient use of time or effort and dramatically decrease efficiency.  It is important to cover the basis to ensure high quality work, but no value is added by requiring unnecessary adherence to specific or particular non-essential criteria.

4) Listen, Organize, Discuss, Decide (LODD).

Listening to the experts and the client ordering the work is important to ensuring all expectations are managed, meted out, and met.

Organizing the thoughts, timelines, remuneration, and delivery of the product or services between the client and vendor and those two internal teams is very important.

Discussing potential breakdowns, providing possible solutions to them, and being upfront and solution oriented will ensure trust and make for more efficient handling of business.

Deciding of the best possible process, delivery of products or services, the risk assessment and the final real die-hard requirements of the project will ensure all parties come away with a clear understanding of their specific role responsibilities as well as the big picture.

Following the LODD principle will allow for a more open and frank discussion and allow for each member perform accountably and with integrity.

5) Rely on the team and the expert.

If the right team and the right set of experts are comprised for the life cycle of a project one should remember that the team will allow the project to come to fruition.  The person at the top, most notably a project manager, a client contact, or a vendor contact is not the expert as it pertains to the project tasks themselves.  Organizing, communicating, and effectively conveying all information in a humble manner is what makes the person who looks like the boss successful.  For each man or woman on top there is a support team that keeps him or her there – it is important to keep this in mind.

6) Efficiency is not an allowance for procrastination.

Simply because a vendor or a worker is very efficient is not a reason to expect him or her to make up for your procrastination.  Everything in life has to have some accountability. If I am a client and I want my project done on time, I must create a possibility where it can be completed on time.  Procrastination cause quite a lot of headaches, reduces efficiency, greatly sacrifices quality, and does not allow for trust or teamwork to reach a critical mass. When these important aspects are lost even if a product or service is delivered, the working relationships suffer and eventually this will lead to a breakdown in the professional relationships and quality will suffer.

Being proactive instead of reactive is a cornerstone of efficiency.  But, having the right attitude and the spirit of collaboration and teamwork go much further to foster an efficient working environment.  Remember: know your place, do your part, and let the rest take shape as it does within an efficient process.

Machine Translation: Friend or Foe?

There is much sensational information available for people out in the ether of the Internet that over explains and complicates machine translation. Additionally, the process or the concept gets a bad reputation from translators and from agencies alike for one major reason– it is just not understood.

The client who needs translations thinks “This is amazing! I will get it faster and cheaper and it will be good quality!”  However, the translator thinks “This is a machine, it can’t understand the nuances of language.” Then there comes the professional fear that tells each party that he or she is going to lose money which makes the demands of each party unreasonable and causes a breakdown in the collaboration and the conversations between the parties.

Experience has shown that all MT is not created equal.   Each different company or different creator of the algorithm used to fit a non-mathematical concept like language, which is constantly changing, into a mathematical concept to be utilized in a more efficient way.  It is also important to note that not all MT is created equal.  The technology is still new and there is no gold standard for it yet, and the gold standard may never actually come to fruition for the simple reason that language changes so rapidly.

On the one hand, MT like Google Translate is based on a good algorithm and it has great potential because of the ability translators have to fix and choose the best possible translation. Additionally, with translation programs like memoQ the option to connect directly to MT databases like Google Translate is available. This connection has the potential to make translation much faster and more efficient, but many companies do not allow for this as a result of non-disclosure agreements and privacy concerns. However, even with Google Translate, not all languages and language pairs are created equal within the MT system.

An example to illustrate this would be the great amount of content that would be available for English to Spanish for the medical device industry.  Economics play an important role in this also; most medical devices are created in countries where English is the native language, or they are created in an environment where English is the lingua franca. Thus, this language pair for this industry would have more content than say, French to Dutch for the same industry.

MT also builds and creates automated translation based on, not only the algorithm, but also the submissions of human translators. This introduces the potential for human error introduction. The general thing to remember is that humans create errors and machines create errors. Neither man nor machine is perfect in performance regardless of engineering or education.

What this all really comes down to is the truth that human translators cannot be cut out of translation completely.  Human impact and human editing will always be needed and the potential to make translation more consistent and more efficient is very present, but the buy-in from both client and translation provider is required. Additionally, if there are not people who speak more than one language there cannot be machines that make translations simpler and faster. There would be no reason at all then for MT to even exist for it cannot exist in a vacuum nor can it exists without human experts to develop it.

MT really is a call to the translators to develop professionally and to embrace technology and be a part of the new technology understanding that it adds to expertise. This is especially true as new economies are becoming larger and more powerful (Brazil, Russian, India, China, etc.) and the need for translation is growing.  It is growing so fast that MT has had to be developed to keep up with the demand and to meet the global demand for translation.

Is English It? Nope.

 Why don’t they just speak English?”

This is a question that could be only best described in a 20 part documentary series with never-ending addenda.  However, given time restraints and a desire to live a full and balanced life, the simple answer is: “They just don’t.”  In our rapidly and continuously globalizing world, English is still one of the most important  lingua francas for most  international communication (others include French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian). However, regardless of this, not every person in the world has access to English.  Companies are realizing that if a product or a service is not offered in a local language that the potential for revenue growth is greatly diminished.

When it comes to business, whether to simply turn a profit, increase a company’s worldwide footprint, or to get into the local mix, foreign language plays an important role in the success of international business.  Without localized and translated material targeted at a particular language group and/or culture, the ability of an international corporation to provide its products on a worldwide scale is greatly diminished. However, providing the product for consumption is only a part of the equation, there are several instances where translation is a must, including: instructions for use, explanation of contents, and product labeling.  Additionally, all countries have laws governing the sale of products which require submission to regulatory bodies and additionally require that all information about the product and its manufacture be provided in the local language.  The back-end work of being able to sell in the locale is to be to simply achieve the right to sell the product legally whereas the front-end work is convincing consumers that the product is something they should buy.

Translators are the professionals who have the language expertise to assist a company in understanding how their product will fit into another locale.  Any company knows its own product well and can provide every reason as to why it is needed in everyday life.  However, it is in the way this is expressed that will have the largest impact on the success of the product in a new international locale. The way society at large communicates with women in the United States will be significantly different from the way society at large communicates with women in India. The cultural understanding of the locale is much more important than the fact the company wants to sell the product. When communication with the potential consumer is evocative, then he or she is more willing and ready to buy.  Without attention to language, the company could be potentially floating a sizable quantity of unsold and unused product.

Searching for the right type of translator and localizer is important and it is not one-size-fits-all. A translator with marketing expertise and a translator with legal expertise are very different types of translators. In fact, it would be similar to asking an automobile mechanic to fix a jet engine. While both perform the same kind of work, that is, they are both mechanics, they have very different jobs and levels of expertise for certain types of mechanic work.  This is the same for a translator, as varied as the world is, so varied is the language professional. The idea of one-size-fits-all must be abandoned as such an expectation will result in disappointment.

What the client should keep in mind is the following when thinking about translation and translators:

  • Independent contractors have several clients, while you are important, the translator is not a full-time employee of yours, expectations must be maintained at the appropriate level.
  • Translation is not simply reading in one language and typing into another. It requires thought and attention; this is not a rote task, it is very mentally involved and challenging.
  • Any translator should be translating into his or her native language (while there are exceptions, this is the rule of thumb).
  • Language is not math, most often the way something is said can be said in another way. Keep this in mind when reviewing what has been translated.
  • Translation is not performed for free and freebies should not be expected.
  • The general metric for translation is 2000 words per day (8 hours).  This entails the first draft translation and a translator self-review.
  • Editing metrics (a translator checks a translation to be sure all meaning is conveyed) are usually around 1000 words per hour.
  • Proofreading metrics (a native of the target language reviews a translation and ensures the style is appropriate and the content is at the applicable register) are usually around 3000 words per hours.
  • Depending on the subject and the expertise of the translator metrics can change.

There are also several other factors that can influence translation, including: computer operating systems, whether a computer program is properly coded and internationalized for non-English display, and many others. However, most companies do not think of translation upfront.  This makes the most sense and  is normal.  Moving into international markets usually comes after success in a domestic market.  Even though getting a system or a product translation ready will be a bit more painstaking after the fact; language professionals will provide invaluable support to an organization’s technical players and programmers, marketing writers, and legal teams.

Having an open mind and a clear idea of what the goal and the needs of the organization seeking translation is imperative. From the clear idea the two players will be significantly more able to define, plan, and execute the translation project.